Francisco Agüero: Paving the way of independence

Photo: OHCC Archive
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Francisco Agüero y Velasco, Frasquito, was born in the town of Puerto Príncipe, current city of Camagüey, presumably, according to his own confession, in the year 1793. Shortly after, in 1812, when he was in Havana, he was surprised by the lieutenant of militias Tomás Ramón de Socarrás while he was writing up some pro-independence proclamations that contained very strong criticisms of the colonial government.

By the way, that was the same year in which in the Main Square of the hometown of Frasquito, on January 29th, eight black leaders responsible for supporting the free black man from Havana José Antonio Aponte Ulabarra, who wagged the fight against the slavery, the aboliiton of the black slave trade and racial discrimination. That same year, on September 8th, the constitutional system would be implemented in Cuba, which was supposed to guarantee the democratic freedoms of all citizens and a greater openness of the government, among other advantages, the right to elect deputies to the Courts. It is known that despite the announcements, nothing changed in the old regime.

Then the constitutional regime would be repealed and the Madrid Courts dissolved by Royal Order, of May 4th, 1814, as ordered by the monarch Fernando VII. By virtue of this setback, Frasquito and other Creoles inspired by liberal ideas and independence would accept the Bolivarian liberation option as the only revolutionary option to fight for the separation of Cuba from Spain.

Thus, with the political situation in Puerto Príncipe aggravated, Frasquito, in the company of a handful of men from this town, would go to Philadelphia in the United States in search of a supposed support for the independence plans; Meanwhile, his compatriots José Agustín Arango Ramírez, Fructuoso del Castillo Varona, José Aniceto Iznaga Borrell from Trinidad, and the Argentinean José Antonio Miralla, would go to Gran Colombia to contact the Liberator Simón Bolívar and other high officials of the emancipatory campaign to win military support for Cuban liberation projects.

Then he would travel to the city of Maracaibo where he would arrive, on May 16th, 1825, better instructed with the ideas of the French bourgeois Revolution under the triptych Freedom, Equality, Fraternity, above all, after having reviewed the philosophical ideas of the French encyclopedists of the 18th century.

Without wasting time in the preparations for Cuban freedom and while planning his return to the Greater Antilles, he would form the body of the Arcana Globa de Mara Masonic organization, Chimborojana Order and Circle of the Sphere, the secret society in chrge of carrying out conspiratorial activities with a strong presence of Bolivarian ideas whose purpose was to gather the largest number of pro-independence campaigners and lead a general uprising on the island.

A suggestive ten-line stanza of his shows his purpose of struggle and of Latin American internationalism:

“En vano el León se enfurece

Contra el indiano jovial

Ya la saeta mortal

Le hirió y ya desfallece

Al ver su perdida crece

Su furor y atrevimiento

Mas el indiano contento

Canta ya su victoria           

Dejando para su gloria

 A las fieras escarmiento”.

In Kingston, Jamaica, Frasquito Agüero would arrive on January 11th, 1826, and there he would make contact with Alonso Betancourt y Betancourt and Andrés Manuel Sánchez Pérez from Camagüey, urgently preparing to hold secret meetings with Colombian and Jamaican patriots in solidarity with the Cuban freedom projects, plans that contemplated putting together an expedition from that island under the flag of “Soles y Rayos de Bolívar” to go to the south of Cuba and make a surprise landing. Agüero would leave Jamaica on the Maryland sloop until landing in the Sabanalamar estuary, near the port of Santa Cruz del Sur. Already in Puerto Príncipe, he would resume contacts with the members of the Triangular Chain that exhorted their men to light the flames of the insurrection while waiting for the Bolivarian expedition consisting of seven well-equipped ships, where  an experienced Venezuelan general and other Colombian officials where in charge.

Known by the government authorities and the civic militia defender of the absolutist regime, some details of these plans and of Frasquito’s entry into the city were leaked and they went directly after him and the mestizo Andrés M. Sánchez to the San José de las Cuabas sugar mill, where they were surprised without offering resistance and transferred to the headquarters of the León Infantry Regiment located in the convent of San Francisco de Asís in the square of the same name, by the way, where the chief of the chain men Tomás Francisco Cosío and Perdomo, several of his followers and even members of the civic militia involved in the plans of the Triangular Chain were imprisoned.

Then came the trial in the Royal Court where they would receive the sentence to be hanged, sentence carried out in the Main Square, at the dawn of the day, on March 16, 1826. It is said that some present saw the bodies shake on the gallows that would have been improvised on La Mayor Street near the square, the authorities and less the executioner did not even care about the proximity to the portico of the Main Church and the devotees who attended the religious service inside.

How alien would Frasquito be at that moment of his physical departure from the actions that his compatriots José Agustín and his brother Antonio Aurelio Arango y Ramírez, Fructuoso del Castillo Varona, Gaspar Betancourt Cisneros, José Aniceto Iznaga Borrell from Trinidad and a handful of people were carrying out in Gran Colombia to bring the Bolivarian expedition and once and for all liberate Cuba from colonialism; would he perhaps know that the lawyer from Camagüey José Agustín Arango together with the Peruvian Manuel Vidaurre y Encalada would waive the libertarian and continental union flags of Bolívar at the Amphictyonic Congress in Panama and that they would refute the Yankee, British and French claims to destroy that alleged unity of the peoples of Our America. It is likely that he would died satisfied knowing it.

The Spanish silence would try to cover that story. In the first section of the Campo Santo of Puerto Príncipe, the grave he was thrown into would not be marked, an act that would fill the hearts of his family and colleagues with more pain. Thus the martyrs tried to be made invisible by the extreme hatred and intolerance of an Empire in moral decline.

However, Cuba would never forget them. At the end of the day, they were deeply sheltered in their patriotic homeland: Camagüey. And they were not the only ones.

Translated by: Aileen Álvarez García